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The Purest Love

"The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and wom...

Sunday, April 30, 2017

She can't go like this!

I nearly lost my sister today. She's in the hospital for attempting to take her own life this afternoon. I spoke with my niece, Alexa, a couple hours ago. My heart breaks for her.  Turns out the guy my sister married last year has been arrested for domestic violence.

I'm making arrangements to visit my sister this week.  They have her stabilized with oxygen and I.V.'s  The doctors say she should make it and I think the plan is to get her into a treatment facility this week.

It's interesting that before I got today's news, I've been having lots of thoughts about my sister. I've been waking up with her on my mind several times a week.  Over the past two months, I've tried to contact her.  I was in Salt Lake a few weeks ago and wanted to visit her at her work but she was too busy so I just dropped off some food at her apartment. I had a strange feeling when I stood outside the door there.  I just knew things weren't right.

Alexa confirmed my fears tonight when she told me about an indecent that happened just over a month ago where apparently, my sister was punched in the face by her husband. He was completely drunk. Can you believe my sister paid this creep's bail the next day for a thousand dollars? She barely has enough money to buy food!! My heart hurts so bad to see my sister in another abusive relationship.

I worry my sister won't live a very long life, even if she fully recovers from this suicide attempt.  My niece has the same concerns. She told me tonight how badly she wants her mother to live for many years to come, to see and hold her grandchildren someday.

Please Dear Father, help my sister to realize her own worth, to find a safe haven, to heal, to have hope for a better tomorrow, and know she is greatly loved. Please Lord, don't let her go this way!!




Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Lord is Able

"God has always asked His covenant children to do difficult things. Because you are covenant-keeping sons and daughters of God, living in the latter part of these latter days, the Lord will ask you to do difficult things. You can count on it—Abrahamic tests did not stop with Abraham. I know how unnerving it can be to be asked to do something that seems far beyond your capacity... 

But the Lord is able to do His own work, and I was privileged to watch the unfolding of one miracle after another—always, and only, after I had brought my best thinking, my most courageous efforts, and my most fervent prayers to the task... 

...anchored in pure doctrine, when you are asked to do impossible things, you will be able to step forward with faith and dogged persistence and cheerfully do all that lies in your power to fulfill the purposes of the Lord.

You will have days when you will be thoroughly discouraged. So, pray for courage not to give up!" - President Russell N. Nelson - Jan. 2017




Just You and me on a hillside 
And 4,999 
If You could see on the inside 
What I brought, what I need, how I’m caught in between

You lifted bread to the blue sky 
They said they watched it just multiply 
But in the back of a long line 
Oh, I want to believe there’s enough left for me

Cause by now it really shoulda been long gone
And somehow it keeps going on and on 
On and on an on ‘cause

You take all kinds of nothing 
Turn it right in to something 
I see impossible, but You see a basket full of 
A little bit of this sounds crazy 
A little bit of just maybe 
You take every doubt and 
You make something out of me

It’s not the story that moves me 
It’s not that I don’t believe You could 
It’s just my heart is so hungry
Is there enough to fill me up 
Or will You run out of love

You take all kinds of nothing 
Turn it right in to something 
I see impossible, but You see a basket full of 
A little bit of this sounds crazy 
A little bit of just maybe 
You take every doubt and 
You make something out of me
Something out of me

By now Your love could have been long gone 
But somehow it keeps going on and on 
And...

You take all kinds of nothing 
Turn it right in to something 
I see impossible, but You see a basket full of 
A little bit of this sounds crazy 
A little bit of just maybe 
You take every doubt and 
You make something out of me
Something out of me




Sunday, April 23, 2017

Rise Each Time You Fall

 I wasn't able to sit in Sacrament Meeting for our own ward today because I had Stake business... which meant Joseph was on his own with the kids. I was a little distracted in my other meetings because I was so worried that it was going to be another one of those Sundays where our foster kids displayed their hatred for the Sabbath in every possible way, pushing and resisting, fighting and ignoring, squirming and sassing... you know--the whole nine yards. I just didn't want Joseph to have to deal with that by himself because it's so draining.

You can imagine how pleased I was to find out that everything went well. The foster kids did amazing this time! They got along, they sat still, they didn't complain, or fight, or throw tantrums, or make rude remarks. Even tonight went smoothly for bed.  My foster daughter didn't scream for an hour like she has been for the last couple weeks. She went straight up to bed without a fight. I rotated through each child, scratching all their backs for five or six minutes each. Everyone was contented and everyone went to sleep without a struggle. Wow!

Days like these are just enough incentive for us to keep going.

The Stake business I had to attend to today was another ward's conference.  Bishop Speckheart of that ward spoke first and read this poem. I was glad to be there to hear it because I felt like the words were so applicable for this journey my husband and I are on.  I couldn't stop the tears from streaming down my face. This poem was exactly what I needed! Absolutely perfect!

The Race
by, D.H. Groberg

“Quit! Give Up! You’re beaten!”
They shout at me and plead.
“There’s just too much against you now.
This time you can’t succeed.”

And as I start to hang my head
In front of failure’s face,
My downward fall is broken by
The memory of a race.

And hope refills my weakened will
As I recall that scene;
For just the thought of that short race
Rejuvenates my being.

A children’s race–young boys, young men–
How I remember well.
Excitement, sure! But also fear;
It wasn’t hard to tell.

They all lined up so full of hope
Each thought to win that race.
Or tie for first, or if not that,
At least take second place.

And fathers watched from off the side
Each cheering for his son.
And each boy hoped to show his dad
That he would be the one.

The whistle blew and off they went
Young hearts and hopes afire.
To win and be the hero there
Was each young boy’s desire.

And one boy in particular
Whose dad was in the crowd
Was running near the lead and thought:
“My dad will be so proud!”

But as they speeded down the field
Across a shallow dip,
The little boy who thought to win
Lost his step and slipped.

Trying hard to catch himself
His hands flew out to brace,
And mid the laughter of the crowd
He fell flat on his face.

So down he fell and with him hope
–He couldn’t win it now–
Embarrassed, sad, he only wished
To disappear somehow.

But as he fell his dad stood up
And showed his anxious face,
Which to the boy so clearly said,
“Get up and win the race.”

He quickly rose, no damage done,
–Behind a bit, that’s all–
And ran with all his mind and might
To make up for his fall.

So anxious to restore himself
–To catch up and to win–
His mind went faster than his legs:
He slipped and fell again!

He wished then he had quit before
With only one disgrace.
“I’m hopeless as a runner now;
I shouldn’t try to race.”

But in the laughing crowd he searched
And found his father’s face;
That steady look which said again:
“Get up and win the race!”

So up he jumped to try again
–Ten yards behind the last–
“If I’m to gain those yards,” he thought,
“I’ve got to move real fast.”

Exerting everything he had
He regained eight or ten,
But trying so hard to catch the lead
He slipped and fell again!

Defeat! He lied there silently
–A tear dropped from his eye–
“There’s no sense running anymore;
Three strikes: I’m out! Why try!”

The will to rise had disappeared;
All hope had fled away;
So far behind, so error prone;
A loser all the way.

“I’ve lost, so what’s the use,” he thought
“I’ll live with my disgrace.”
But then he thought about his dad
Who soon he’d have to face.

“Get up,” an echo sounded low.
“Get up and take your place;
You were not meant for failure here.
Get up and win the race.”

With borrowed will "get up,” it said,
“You haven’t lost at all.
For winning is no more than this:
To rise each time you fall.”

So up he rose to run once more,
And with a new commit
He resolved that win or lose
At least he wouldn’t quit.

So far behind the others now,
–The most he’d ever been–
Still he gave it all he had
And ran as though to win.

Three times he’d fallen, stumbling;
Three times he rose again;
Too far behind to hope to win
He still ran to the end.

They cheered the winning runner
As he crossed the line first place.
Head high, and proud, and happy;
No falling, no disgrace.

But when the fallen youngster
Crossed the line last place,
The crowd gave him the greater cheer,
For finishing the race.

And even though he came in last
With head bowed low, unproud,
You would have thought he’d won the race
To listen to the crowd.

And to his dad he sadly said,
“I didn’t do too well.”
“To me, you won,” his father said.
“You rose each time you fell.”

And now when things seem dark and hard
And difficult to face,
The memory of that little boy
Helps me in my race.

For all of life is like that race,
With ups and downs and all.
And all you have to do to win,
Is rise each time you fall.

“Quit! Give up! You’re beaten!”
They still shout in my face.
But another voice within me says:
“GET UP AND WIN THE RACE!”

Friday, April 21, 2017

Leave this part blank.

I can't even write anymore. I can't seem to grasp my own thoughts, let alone articulate them.  I feel so terribly far from inspiration.  These days, I hardly know how to talk to my old friends when I see them let alone how to talk to God. In most of my prayers my mind drifts endlessly or is totally blank. My husband has expressed the exact same struggles. My children are manifesting similar emotions too.

Our world has shrunk to a select few who understand. The couple in our ward who had these kids before us "get" what we're going through but even they didn't have the children as long...and they didn't have their own biological children to blend with them either.

The irony of foster care is you try so desperately to save the lives of your foster kids but in the process you better brace yourself to take a wrecking ball to your own life. The trick is to avoid resenting that "wrecking ball" even learn how to love it, to embrace it.

Now, my foster son is doing pretty well despite a few set-backs.  I can't complain. He is trying so hard and I'm very proud of his progress. On the other hand, the melt-downs have increased with my foster daughter again. She was really doing better for several weeks in a row until she started seeing her mother 2x a week at the daycare for women in drug rehab. Almost every night now before bed she's back to  having convulsions and screaming non-stop for over an hour.  She's been doing this more in the day too. There's absolutely no consoling her. I offer to read her a story or to scratch her back in an effort to calm her. I hold her and she kicks and flails. Every soothing effort she violently refuses and so I walk away only to hear her scream like a banshee for all that she said she didn't want two seconds ago. At that point, all I can do is shut the door, walk away, and wait for her to be silent. Sometimes, I'm not that patient and I scream back or give her one big firm swat on the butt. (Of course that never helps.)

When she's not having melt-downs she wants me holding her and I do hold her but she weighs the same as Kaylee and I can't hold her for extremely long periods like she wishes.  The minute I set her down, she panics or starts lashing out at my other kids--That's hard for them. Chandler can't stand it, so he chases after her in a territorial manner acting like he's going to beat her... of course, he doesn't touch her but the threat is enough to cause the anxiety in her three-yr-old body to sky-rocket. (I've had a thousand lectures with Chandler about this begging him not tease her like that.)

She is a good girl and can be very sweet. I desperately want to give her the best home.  I want to help her so much but she can also be so hard, so very, very hard! Never in my life have I experienced a child like her. No one sees the struggles we are going through. No one sees it! When I talk with the social workers, they say I'm doing great. Really? Because I feel like crap! I'm just not who I thought I'd be as a foster mom.

I found a medical term that describes what my husband and I are going through. It's called Post Adoption Depression.  Now, we aren't adopting right now because our goal in foster care is to get these kids to reunification with the birth-parents but many of the symptoms we have been experiencing are the same as listed in Post Adoption Depression.

So what do we do? 
I don't know. I have no clue. 

There are many good moments.  I guess that is what I was trying to capture in my last post... but who am I kidding?... Most of the time, it feels like I'm falling apart. I pray for strength to be a better person. I know I can do better.

-Alicia 

I found a small space in our shrunken world that seemed to validate our emotions. According to this thread, this is "the new normal" and I need to have faith that time will be the healing factor.

Vivian Park - This was a good day for our family. (Foster's faces are blurred because we can't post their pictures.)





This Past Week


Sunday, my parents and my niece, Alexa, came down for a big Easter feast. I invited my brother and sister to come too but they always have an excuse for why they can't make it. My mom says the big issue is that they're uncomfortable being around so many children in my home. It's just too much and they can't handle the stress. Oh well,I'll keep trying to pull my family together. I know my other brother would come if he didn't live so far away.

After dinner we did our two favorite Easter traditions: golden eggs strung on a tree that you open one at a time to tell the story of Christ's Atonement and empty tomb sweet rolls. Then we played outdoor games as a family: foursquare, light-up Frisbee, and Velcro ball.

My kids were thrilled when Alexa told them she was spending the night at our place.  It's been more than half a year since she's stayed a few days. She's busy with work and college now. Her boyfriend, Conner, is preparing for a mission. I know two years will be a terribly difficult separation for them because they love each other deeply. They plan to get married when he returns. He certainly has my approval, what a wonderful son-in-law he'll make. :)




Miriam celebrated her 14th birthday a few days ago.  Alexa gave her some of her old shirts as a gift and Miriam was so proud to be grown up enough to fit in them. Miriam wanted to go skating with her friends for her birthday. She brought a Isabel from school, Elise from our ward, Emma from the 11th ward, Olivia from the 1st ward, and she invited Grace from the 3rd ward but--Grace had a broken foot.  (I love to see Miriam with her friends because they are all such good girls. She's pretty close with each of them and they're all excited to be at girls camp together this summer.)















I went on a lovely afternoon date with Joseph on Tuesday and it was Kaylee's turn for an afternoon date with him on Wednesday.
 The kids all love their dates with dad. We rotate every Wednesday right after music lessons. These little dates are so simple but they mean so much: a walk down the parkway, eating lunch at his desk, or watching a few of their Youtube videos together. It's only a half-hour of Joseph's time. All the kids need is to be with him and they're happy.

I finished my final essay for my class at BYU this week and I take my final test on Tuesday.  So far, I'm one of three students at 100% or above in my grades. I really love school and am so glad I enrolled this semester despite all the craziness in my life.

There's so many things I want to capture through writing but things have been insanely busy. I'll have to come back to this post and add some photos of these and other events through the week.  I don't have time to add them right now because I'm leaving soon to chaperone a field trip for my foster son and I need to get my other children's homeschool set in motion beforehand.

Seize the day!
-Alicia



Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Little About Life and Love

Tuesday's with Morrie came out almost twenty years ago but I never saw it until last night. Checking out DVD's from the library usually means extremely thin pickings--it's hard to find anything worth while. I almost went home with nothing in my hands until I found this one and decided to give it a shot.

When my husband saw the cover of the DVD, he looked terribly disappointed, smirking at the picture of an old man in a wheelchair, "Really, this is what you want to watch?"
I responded, "Honey, that's Jack Lemmon! Don't you know him? Have you ever seen The Days of Wine and Roses or The Odd Couple?  He's an incredible actor!" 
 I knew none of that mattered to Joseph--he's always in the mood for big action-packed movies. This well... this was a far cry from action... and maybe a little too close to cry.  Even still, he ended up watching and really enjoyed it. Of course I loved it! I'm admittedly a sucker for deep movies, the kind of movies that enlighten my mind or expand my heart--anything with a nice moral to it. 

Tuesday's with Morrie had so many wonderful lines about life and love, purpose and dying, I had to take notes. Here's a few of my favorite quotes:

 "All I have is a voice - to undo the folded lie - the lie of authority - whose buildings grope the sky. No one exists alone. Hunger allows no choice to the citizen or police. We must love one another... or die." - W.H. Auden

"When we're infants, we need others to survive. When we're dying, we need others to survive. But here's the secret. In between, we need others even more." -Morrie

"The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in." -Morrie

"My father was afraid of love. He couldn't give it and he couldn't receive it either. Maybe that's worse...  Not letting ourselves be loved because we're too afraid of giving ourselves to someone we might lose."-Morrie

"Sometimes you cannot believe what you see, you have to believe what you feel. And if you are ever going to have other people trust you, you must feel that you can trust them, too - even when you're in the dark. Even when you're falling."-Morrie

"If we accept the fact that we can die at anytime we lead our lives differently." -Morrie

"When you learn how to die, you learn how to live."-Morrie

-Alicia

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Oh, how I needed this!

I went to lunch with my sisters-in-law this afternoon and they asked how things were going with foster care.  I told them that I really didn't know and that it was much harder than I had imagined. I get discouraged because I just haven't felt like I'm doing that great of a job.  These kids need someone who can see the hurt deep down inside of them and not take offense to every slight. They need someone who is willing to hold them and love them even when on the outside they are pushing everyone away. I just don't see myself as fulfilling those needs enough.

Tonight, my foster son asked if he could type in his journal on his laptop after I tucked him in bed.  I brought his computer in and said, "Sure, as long as you promise that you're not going to sneak games or YouTube videos in, you are very welcome to type in your journal." A little while later, he called me back to the bedroom. "I sent you something in a Google Doc."
"You did? What was it that you sent?"
"You'll see. Check your email."
"Right now?"
"Yeah, check your email. I want to watch you read it."
Now I was curious. I grabbed the phone and pulled open my email and read the following note:

I hugged him tightly and kissed him on the forehead. "Thank you so much! This was the sweetest thing you could have ever done. You don't realize how much this means to me. Thank you!" I kissed him again. He smiled bashfully and crawled back into bed. I wished him a good night and squeezed his hand tight. 

I think my foster son was inspired by the Spirit to write me this note tonight.  It came at a very good time. I really needed the encouragement.

-Alicia :)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Above the Nay-saying and Pessimism

Yesterday, I attended the funeral for a young man, Jeromiah, who passed away a few short months from turning twenty due to complications he suffered with muscular dystrophy.  He had been diagnosed at the age of three and as each year passed, the disease took over his ability to walk, his ability to move his arms, his ability to speak very well, and eventually his entire body--except for very slight movements in a couple fingers. Spending most of his life in a quadriplegic wheelchair, this courageous young man refused to let his spirit be confined.  He graduated from college, was a graphic designer, a blogger, and was preparing to serve a mission for the Church. 

This excerpt from his Salutatory Address inspires me so much.  He said, "Let us be proactive and independent in our minds and motivations, above the nay-saying and pessimism we are sure to encounter. But let us still depend on those who care about us. May we be dependable citizens and reliable community members, to support each other as we go forth into the world and change it for the better." - Jeromiah Drennan

And he certainly changed the world for the better. I'm sure Jeromiah had his days where he struggled to live his own counsel but his accomplishments are proof that he truly practiced what he preached.

It's no surpise to me that he loved the book, Man's Search for Meaning. He completely understood that "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." - Victor Frankl

Reflecting on all that was shared at the funeral yesterday, I'm compelled to ask myself, "What level of gratitude is in my heart and how can I avoid nay-saying and pessimism? Where do I limit myself? What practices, habits, or self-talk will free my spirit from being confined by the forces of opposition in my life?" 

One other quote given at the services yesterday was this description of the highest education by President Hinckley. I believe this education is more readily achieved when we grasp our true spiritual identity and the true spiritual identity of everyone around us--the untouchable portion of our soul that is of infinite worth to our loving Father in Heaven.

"Each day we are made increasingly aware of the fact that life is more than science and mathematics, more than history and literature. There is need for another education, without which the substance of secular learning may lead only to destruction. I refer to the education of the heart, of the conscience, of the character, of the spirit—these indefinable aspects of our personalities which determine so certainly what we are and what we do in our relationships one with another." - President Gordon B. Hinckley

What beautiful tributes were made to celebrate the life of Jeromiah yesterday! Physically limited but not spiritually bound, this young man may have had a completely immovable body - but oh how his spirit SOARED!!

-Alicia

Friday, April 7, 2017

Driving Lessons

Chandler has been driving with his permit for eight months now. It's so fun to see him growing up! He's an interesting mixture of cautious and cocky when he's on the road.

Before I say much more, I have a small confession to make:
He has actually been driving with me much longer than with his permit... much longer.  I don't know how legal it is but I've been taking all my kids to vacant church parking lots since they were eight years old giving them turns sitting with me in the driver's seat.  It's just a little more difficult these days to be inconspicuous in our big huge "space shuttle."

Through the years, I've noticed how completely different each of my kids have handled driving and how core aspects of their personalities manifest themselves behind the wheel.

Just for the record, Chandler gave his predictions for each of his siblings when they get their licence:
"Miriam will always drive 20-miles-an-hour under the speed limit.
Micah will be the first one to get in a wreck.
Kaylee will be too afraid to even get behind the wheel."

I laugh because I believe he's right with Micah and I don't think the wreck will be small... and of course, Micah will think it was awesome! But Chandler's predictions about his "timid" sisters couldn't be more off.  Miriam has always handled it quite confidently and maturely. As for Kaylee, Chandler hasn't been with me when I've taken her out for a "drive"... she's much more "brave" than he thinks.

-Alicia

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

All About Learning

Joseph took work off today so we could enjoy a nice morning hike together. He's been so good about making sure we have time alone. Our dates are more frequent and consistent than ever and I love it! I think Joseph has felt more protective of me because of all we are experiencing with foster care. He's anxious to make sure I'm holding up okay.  It's very sweet of him.

It's been great to see how my kids protectively look out for me too. I have one class this semester at BYU. It has been pretty easy because it's a religion class and I use part of my scripture study time in the early morning to do my reading assignments which works out well because they're assigned from the scriptures. The exams are a little tough though. Last night, I had to study for one but couldn't really get to it until late in the evening. When I finally made it into my room to study, my foster daughter kept screaming for me. I could hear Miriam outside my bedroom door patiently working with her and helping her understand that I couldn't come out of my room. Miriam really is a miracle-worker when it comes to children.

Chandler also tried to help give me the space I needed to study. When he heard our foster daughter screaming for me again, he bounded up the stairs with a growl to "stop her"... which resulted in Miriam, Joseph, Micah, and Kaylee all dog-piling Chandler to "protect" our foster daughter. Ha ha! Despite that bit of drama, I really do appreciate Chandler's heart in it.  He really does look out for me.

It has been amazing to watch my children in this huge life-change for them and I've been so pleased to see them adjust as well as they have.  I think Micah and Kaylee have dealt with the most. They both have demonstrated incredible compassion, making room, giving time, teaching patiently, and sharing. I worry though... because I think some damage has been done to Kaylee emotionally so we've made an effort to get her therapy from a Dr. who specializes with foster families.

As hard as it has been, I must say that our foster kids have shown huge positive changes from when they first moved in with us. They are learning what it means to have boundaries, personal space, and healthy communication. They are learning responsibilities, learning to work, learning to play, learning to be creative, and use their imaginations. They are learning how a mom and a dad should treat each other. They are learning what it's like to have a book read to them, to have positive physical affection, and to feel safe at night.

We're all learning so much. I've said it before and I'll say it again:

Show me a person who has innumerable followers, popularity, high accolades, degrees and doctorates, scholarly knowledge, who has read all the books and passed all the tests but who has never learned to care for their family, never learned to be civil in conversation, never learned to recognize and act upon the Spirit, never learned to reach beyond their obsession of self to sincerely love their neighbor, who has never learned to truly love and truly serve - and you've shown me a fool, indeed.

I truly believe that best kind of education is found in meaningful relationships, it is found in learning to love, to step outside our self in the most exhausting and difficult circumstances.

-Alicia


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Action Items

“I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more, I find it easier to abide their counsel.” 
- Spencer W. Kimball

Reflecting on  General Conference today and yesterday, this is a quote that keeps coming to my mind.  It seemed that most of the talks were centered on or frequently mentioned the importance of daily personal scripture study.

My husband has always been a great example to me of one who diligently studies the scriptures.  Lately, he's been taking to heart Elder Nelson's counsel to study scriptures focused on Jesus Christ daily.  As a result, he's been listening to the four gospels at work every day for the past several weeks.

I feel like I really could use some improvement in my personal prayers and scripture study, Though I don't think my problem is being casual. Scripture study and prayer are just part of my regular daily routine.  But I feel as if I've been more blank, less feeling, with little to no absorption in my study lately,  I've had more days than usual where I've felt depressed too so maybe that's part of it.  I don't feel like I'm the same person I was six months ago.  I feel like my experiences being a foster mom have been like a bomb dropped on me and I'm still reeling from the shock.

There's so much I need to improve on.  Foster care is extremely humbling.  Speaking of foster care... Another thing that stood out to me in conference today was when S. Mark Palmer said, "those who are the hardest to love are the ones who need love the most." This is my earnest prayer: to love when I don't feel like loving, to give when I don't feel like giving, to sacrifice when I have nothing left in me to sacrifice.

I'm so grateful for a wonderful conference weekend. And I'm grateful for every new day to keep trying and keep practicing. God is good.

-Alicia